Portland's groundbreaking alternative to the MFA.
An annual certificate program, the Attic Atheneum melds independent study under close faculty supervision, student receptions, public readings, and other special Atheneum events created around good food and great conversation, dialogue, and literary community.
Running for just under a year, the Atheneum is designed to advance your writing and seed literary life in the city. Atheneum Fellows form a unique community of literary artists and citizens.
For the next Atheneum year, we're taking applications only in fiction and nonfiction.
Atheneum Faculty for 2023-2024
Lee Montgomery, Erica Berry, Joanna Rose, Brian Benson.
The Attic Atheneum offers a unique and pragmatic format for an intensive focus on your writing while participating fully in your everyday adult life. The Atheneum provides you with a thriving literary community comprised of up to 20 members — with no more than 8 students each in fiction and nonfiction, and 4 faculty.
An alternative to traditional and low-residency MFAs, the Atheneum is structured to build on your strengths and encourage you to become an active participant in your literary life.
The program includes independent study under close faculty supervision, receptions, public readings, and discussion, selected readings, and other Atheneum events created around good food and great conversation, dialogue, and community. Plus, an end-of-program urban retreat to focus on your future writing goals.
Historically, an atheneum is a literary or scientific association dedicated to learning. And that's how we envision the Attic Atheneum, too.
The Atheneum aims to foster a strong sense of community among both students and faculty and to make each year's class of students a unique collection of writers and readers.
Our vision is that, in the future, Attic Atheneum alumni will continue to interact with current Atheneum members and help broaden a thriving literary community from year to year.
How does it work? Throughout your Atheneum year as an Atheneum Fellow, meetings and correspondence between you and the faculty mentor occur at regular intervals. Through building community and emphasizing an individualized course of study and engagement with faculty, our goal is not to duplicate the MFA model or to supply academic credentials, but to allow you to immerse yourself in your writing discipline, help you to remain accountable to your aspirations over an extended and reasonable period of time, and to affirm your literary ambition and skills.
"The Atheneum faculty cultivated and challenged us throughout the program—for me, over two years. When I started, I had a handful of pages and lots of notes and ideas for a novel that felt too daunting to take on, and without the structure and provocations and guidance from the Atheneum, I don’t know that I would have really gotten it moving. (I very much doubt I would be closing in on 400 pages by the end.) The monthly check-ins have helped me understand that the good things emerge not necessarily every day, but from showing up every day—over months—to build the work over time. I sort of knew that before, but now I know it in my bones. I believe it. Book recommendations on craft, as well as the ingenious generative prompts and thematic discussions about staying focused and contemplating what we really want from being published, have shaped my understanding of the avocation and helped me feel grounded. I don’t like the thought of not seeing everyone in the Atheneum as much as the last two years, but I do feel much better equipped than I was before the Atheneum. Night and day." ~ Rick Rees, Atheneum Class 2022 + 2023
"My year of Atheneum study introduced me to a whole new approach to writing. After years of workshopping my pages in a weekly group, the Atheneum offered additional opportunities to talk about writing during bimonthly salons at the Crows Nest and public readings. I came away from the Atheneum with a new narrative arc, plus a whole new group of writing friends that I'm still in touch with a year after the program ended." ~ Kelly Wallace, Atheneum Class 2014
"In the past year, I have come to discover writing as an anchor for my evolving private and public lives. This program has helped me embrace the ups and downs, and uncertain refueling points, that are personally integral to sustaining the craft." ~ Shelley Stearns, Atheneum Class 2013
"The Atheneum had a profound impact on my writing. Over the course of the year, I learned so much about craft and my own voice, and I emerged with a real sense of possibility about my ability to become a capital-w Writer. For motivated, dedicated writers, the program offers a great balance of structured activity and time to write. I can't imagine having this level of determination, confidence and curiosity without my experience in the Atheneum." ~ Brian Benson, Atheneum class of 2012
"The cross-genre Atheneum has given me some sense of what other writers are doing and a clearer sense of what writers in each genre have in common as well as our perceptions of art, our triumphs and frustrations with publishing, and the local literary scene." ~ Jodie Marion, Atheneum class of 2011
MAY 20, 2024
Nomination/Application Form (** Please note: if you are having trouble getting your app to us in time, need support or extra time with your letter of recommendation, please email us. We know this is a difficult time to be applying for something in the fall, and we want to make it work for you.)
The Atheneum year runs from September - June.
Writers may nominate themselves.